Commentary #116: Thoughts on “LuLaRich”

Image Credit: Google Images, Amazon Prime Video

Buckle up, friends. This is going to be a long post. Strong language is used.

Some of you know that I used to buy LuLaRoe (LLR) clothing for two years, from 2017-2019. At the time, I had no clue it was a multi-level marketing company, or MLM.

Now, Amazon Prime Video has released a decent documentary that features the founders, former front office employees, current and former “retailers,” and a few more.

NOTE: I originally set this post to publish on September 20th after having re-watched Episodes 1 and 2, thinking I was going to be able to re-watch all four episodes before the post published automatically. That didn’t happen. It published automatically, and I forgot about it for a few days. I decided to update the scheduling to publish it on September 24th after needing to re-watch Episodes 3 and 4 and make my notes about it. So the updated publishing date is actually September 24th.


Episode 1 – Start Up

Image Credit: LuLaRich

I can’t believe the producers of this documentary were actually able to get DeAnne and Mark Stidham on camera! I’d love to know how that conversation went. Wow!

You are the boss of your business! — Hahahahaha. No, you’re not. MLMs are not legitimate small businesses. Period.

One of the commentators is Robert FitzPatrick – Author, MLM Expert – He was interviewed on Roberta Blevins’s excellent podcast, “Life After MLM.” He’s written two books on MLMs.

Independent fashion retailers — No, actually, you’re an independent contractor. And you have to pay taxes!

$5,000 buy-in (Say WHAT?!?!) Holy moly. This one blew my mind. What the fuck? I could do so much with $5,000 – So much!

Selling breast milk to afford start-up costs — Ummmmm. Yeah. That’s absolutely insane. Nope!

A million dollar company to a billion dollar company. — It grew way too fast, and no one was able to keep up. Plain and simple.

Weight loss surgery — What the actual fuck. No, no, no.

Roberta Blevins — Amazing woman! I have a link to her podcast above! She is awesome!

“Why are the leggings wet? Why does the whole house smell like dead fart leggings?“ — Right on, Roberta! Inferior product doesn’t sell!

“LuLaRoe tricked people into joining a pyramid scheme.“

Actual depositions from the State of Washington v. LLR — I laughed and cringed at the same time!

Mark spouting passages from the Book of Mormon — Yeah. Roberta was right. You are/were in a cult!

LLR logo is a pyramid!

DeAnne’s maiden name is “Startup.” Seriously!

DeAnne is the 10th of 11 children. She has a twin sister, Diane.

Mark is one of four kids. Never wanted to work a job or work for a boss. “When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no upper limit.”

1988 – DeAnne went to a swap meet in California. Bought four dresses from a man. Started booking dress parties. The first party sold 300 dresses. DeAnne did that for 27 years.

She started making maxi skirts after her daughter asked for one. Sold 20,000 maxi skirts quickly. Mark started in production.

2012 – Brittany Hunter from Utah, came and got skirts out of DeAnne’s van. DeAnne and Mark officially formed LuLaRoe, LLC in 2013. The name comes from three of their granddaughters – Lucy, Lola, and Monroe.

What I really liked about LuLaRich was the group of people they interviewed. When I first saw the trailer, I was pretty sure the producers had only interviewed DeAnne, Mark, and both former and current fashion retailers. It was really nice to see journalists and other experts, too! And home office employees that really spilled the tea.

For those who may not know, MLMs have been around for a good long while. The first one in the United States was Nutrilite in the 1940s, and then they were purchased by Amway. Other MLMs include Tupperware, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Herbalife, and Rodan + Fields. But there are a lot more – I remember hearing for either this documentary or Roberta’s podcast that there are about 300 active MLM companies in the United States. And many of them have gone global to other countries. Ewwwwww.

What is really being sold is the opportunity.

You can only go about 13 levels, and you surpass the population of the Earth.

Even though MLMs have been around and growing since the 1940s, it’s really exploded in the last 10 years or so. It’s advertised primarily through social media.

Buy it for wholesale, sell it for retail. It’s not get-rich-quick. —- Yeahhhhhh. Right.

Mark: Underutilized resource of stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs). A lot of people of faith attracted to this business. It’s a pure meritocracy.

Meritocracy: Government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.

Sam Schultz, DeAnne’s nephew, joined LLR in 2015 as the events director. Part of the same demographic as the fashion retailers. He hired Mario Lopez to present DeAnne with an award. The photos went viral, and 11,000 people wanted to join the company after that weekend.

2016 – LLR made over $70 million, and expanded to a new home office in Corona, California.

Catastrophic growth, corporate tornado.

“Helping families, blessing lives.” — Wow.


Episode 2 – Show Up

Image Credit: LuLaRich

LLR created a video called “5 Ways to Finance Your Start Up Costs.” The smallest initial package was $5,000. The largest was $11,000!! Examples: Open an interest-free credit card, sell your breast milk.

LLR home office employees! I honestly wasn’t expecting these people to be interviewed, but it was AWESOME. LaShae is my FAVORITE. Worked at Macy’s originally. She met DeAnne in the hallway, she had Chanel on. She marched her to the warehouse and picked out a few pieces because she wasn’t wearing LLR! She was wearing Chanel!!

Derryl Trujillo came to LLR after working for Steve Madden, and reffing and officiating high school volleyball too. He found the ad for data entry and customer service on Craigslist. He was placed in the email department, which was the first line of defense for the company. They tried to be the filter of the building. Mark and DeAnne were seldom around the office, the window seat had to look out for their cars. The family had six Mercedes vehicles. Eight-five to ninety percent (85-90%) of the sixth floor was the family. No one had a clue to run the company of that size. “Data entry” was a Google Doc spreadsheet. Everyone kept editing it, and things would change second to second!

Creating the compensation plan on the fly.

Onboarding team – Fill out your application for LLR, and you were put into the onboarding queue. The team would call these retailers and let them know they were now a part of the family. Mark had a quota. What do you need to onboard 500 people on a Saturday?

These prospective retailers had the LuLaRoe phone number saved as “LuLaRoe – Life Changing Call.”

The number of retailers just grew and grew and grew. By 2016, there were 15,000 retailers! By the end of 2016, there were over 60,000!!

Unicorn hunting – Because you could only pick sizes and the type of clothing, you never knew what prints you were going to get! There were limited prints, too. It was nuts watching the documentary! I participated in multiple Facebook Lives when I bought LLR from three different consultants, so I understand the frenzy!

They talked about the Leadership Bonus Plan. It went from Retailer to Sponsor to Trainer to Coach to Mentor. There was a huge push to recruit and to buy. Recruiting was emphasized. Roberta purchased $78,000 worth of clothing wholesale, and made $83,000 total. And that didn’t include her business expenses. She made $65,000 in bonuses! It’s really easy to see how lucrative this was!

Social media posts were always supposed to be positive, and then attributed to LuLaRoe! DeAnne would become upset if a post didn’t have the #becauseofLuLaRoe hashtag!

And then there were the LuLaRoe cruises! You had to qualify for the cruises, which meant you had to sell $12,000 worth of clothes per month. That’s crazy! But there are/were people who qualified for 5-6 cruises!


Episode 3 – Blow Up

Image Credit: A member from the Facebook group your MLM is not a small business, Karen. https://www.facebook.com/groups/166294847640193/?ref=share

Mark and DeAnne would go live online. Every single Tuesday, people would tune in! There was so much idol worship and celebrity.

People started realizing that there was a lot of control. A couple of people started putting the pieces together and thinking, “Oh my God I’m in a cult.”

Enter Becca Peter. She sells washi tape online. For fun, she researches LuLaRoe online. The sales tax was strange, that was her first clue.

LuLaRoe takes advantage of these feelings that women have – They want to be great moms to their kids, but also contribute to the household. It’s the opposite of empowering.

Some of these women started involving their husbands in their LuLaRoe world. And then there’s the “retire your husband” thing. I hate that with a burning passion. It’s another control thing!! Paul said it perfectly – It’s devious and sinister! You’re trapped!

Over 80 percent of people have no one underneath them in MLMs. In 2016, 70 percent of LLR consultants made NO MONEY – ZERO.

If everything is possible, nothing is true. It’s all a farce, a fallacy. The documentary didn’t really discuss the cost-sunk fallacy, but it’s true of all MLMs.

Then there’s the gastric sleeve. DeAnne and her sister, Lynnae, were recruiting women to go to Tijuana, Mexico to get the surgery! The group chat was called “Tijuana Skinny’s.” DeAnne got the surgery and is on video where she lost 72 pounds. Courtney Harwood from North Carolina was looking into it, and ultimately decided on the weight loss balloon surgery in the U.S. – She nearly died! And then she was told that the gastric sleeve was the way to go.

Then the number of retailers went up to 90,000. And if you weren’t making money, it wasn’t the obvious over-saturation of sellers, but it was because “you weren’t working hard enough.” How demoralizing is that!?

Roberta opened a box of inventory in 2016, and realized one item was soaking wet – One pair of leggings. A couple of shipments later, there was a horrible smell from the box. When filing a return request, one of the choices was “Stinky leggings.” Seriously! They were selling moldy leggings, and there was product outside, exposed to the elements. The Mentors went to the home office, and it was met with agitation and being dismissive.

The material was changing! The leggings were arriving with holes, or ripping apart after one hour. The material itself was thinner. The company claimed that they weren’t distributing old product, but they were. The design theft was rampant. They told designers to find a print, change two things, and then voila! It’s a new print!

If you complain or criticize, then you’re the loser. It highlights so many insecurities! Negativity is a big no-no. Use the delete button! People were being scolded like children. For most of the consultants, they were used and betrayed. In my opinion, there was also abuse! There was gaslighting and love bombing.


Episode 4 – Toe Up

In June 2017, LuLaRoe changed their bonus structure. It would be based on sales rather than ordering. The checks were cut in half almost overnight.

Complaints were rolling in, and the question of whether or not LLR was a pyramid scheme kept coming up. And then there was the return policy. The company implemented a 100 percent buyback policy. Consultants would get a full refund, and there was no expiration date.

A bunch of people joined, and then a lot of people left. It was a mass exodus. LLR paid over $100 million during that time. Then they reverted back to the original policy with an additional stipulation, and leaders were not eligible for refunds.

News coverage swelled. Social media groups exploded, such as “LuLaRoe Defective.” And then a few people started talking about hiring a class-action attorney. The reason? Withholding approved refunds is illegal.

The case started as a breach of contract case because they changed the buyback policy almost overnight. They started a website called LLR Class Action. The number of people who contacted the attorney was staggering.

There have been dozen of lawsuits filed against LLR, in multiple states. They were sued for defective leggings, and then copyright infringement. The MyDyer lawsuit basically called Mark and DeAnne outright scammers – One claim is that LLR owes them $49 MILLION DOLLARS. LLR is also tied to many LLCs, in multiple states. Many of them were set up simultaneously in 2017.

Then, in January 2019, a civil lawsuit was filed by the Washington State Attorney General. It alleged that LuLaRoe was operating as a pyramid scheme.

Depositions were taken from DeAnne, Mark, Kenny Brady, and Jordan Brady. They have absolved themselves of all blame and/or responsibility. In my humble opinion, they are all fucking scammers and greedy bastards. There, I said it. All of them are awful people. Mark, especially, reminded me of both of my abusive relationships. It’s all about the money!


Resources & More Information

How LuLaRoe cost some women their homes, cars, savings, and marriages | The New York Post (September 2021)

4 Shockingly Manipulative Work Moments in the ‘LuLaRich’ Documentary | HUFFPOST (September 2021)

Amazon’s ‘LuLaRich’ perfectly explains the demise of the girl boss | MSNBC Opinion (September 2021)

Why Women Are Quitting Their Side Hustle: Leaving LuLaRoe | VICE (May 2019)


Have you watched LuLaRich? If so, what did you think?

If you haven’t, are you planning on watching it?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #31: Reforming The Police

First of all, I want to say that the word “defund” in this context is inflammatory and a poor word choice. I do not plan to use that word here when I am communicating my intentions. Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have questions.

John Oliver just covered this for Last Week Tonight: Police

There are so many analogies that I can make. The biggest thing that I’ve learned in my research is that we need to lighten the load of the police. Everything has been dumped on them. No wonder they’re overwhelmed and scared.


The following was written by Father Nathan Monk, posted to his Facebook page earlier this month.

“Imagine this with me for a moment. A guy falls asleep after drinking. He’s in line for Wendy’s because he’s needing some late night greasy food. He’s been out with his friends all night and he’s super tired. He falls asleep. An employee notices and goes inside.

They call 911.

The driver wakes up to a gentle tap on the window. He rolls it down. He’s a little confused and disoriented.

“Hi. My name is Stacy. I’m a social worker and I just wanted to make sure you are alright?”

“I just fell asleep.”

“I understand. This is my colleague, their name is Dominque. They want to go order your meal for you while we talk. What did you want?”

“A number four with a coke.”

“Would you mind pulling your car over there so we can talk? Dominique will be getting that meal for you.”

“Ok, just a second. Am I in trouble?”

“No, we just want to make sure you are safe and that everyone else on the road is safe. Can we do that together?”

“I can do that!”

After a conversation, Stacy and Dominique decide that they are pretty sure they can confirm that the driver has been drinking. They ask a lot of questions about his drinking habits. They determine that he clearly doesn’t have a drinking problem. He just rarely drinks, didn’t know his limits, and made a mistake to get behind the wheel.

After his meal, the driver is feeling much better. The social workers offer to have his car towed to his house and an Uber comes to pick him up.

In this scenario, Rayshard Brooks is still alive. He’s given compassionate and reasonable care. This is what community should look like. This is a way we could re-envision what our response could be as a society. This is what it would look like to defund the police.”


What Father Nathan Monk has imagined is perfectly reasonable. Putting it into practice, however, is a different story.

Do I think it can happen?

With the right people involved, the right resources, and the proper allocation and adjustments of funding, YES.

But, it’s not just reforming the police.

It’s reforming mental health services, social services, education, and the list goes on and on.


A lot more work needs to be done. That’s the one thing that is crystal clear.

So, what can you, as a resident of your community, do?

Get involved with your city leaders. Find out who oversees the police department. Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, the police chief’s boss is our city manager.

Participate, productively, in city council meetings. Demand change. Send emails to those directly responsible.

Most importantly – Vote in the election this November. Research the candidates that will be on your ballot. Exercise your constitutional right. Request a mail-in ballot if you don’t feel comfortable voting in person. This is the one big thing that EVERYONE can do, and it’s one of the easiest things. Look up your State Board of Elections for more information.


Resources

Reforming Police | American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Police Reform | The New York Times Magazine

The Change We Need: 5 Issues that Should Be Part of Efforts to Reform Policing in Local Communities | Advancement Project

Police Reform | The Marshall Project

How to reform American police, according to experts | Vox

The City that Really Did Abolish the Police | Politico

These New Jersey cities reformed their police – what happened next? | The Guardian

Fixing the Force | PBS FRONTLINE


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #27: Purdue Pharma

Purdue Pharma

OxyContin bottles, the biggest drug made and marketed by Purdue Pharma. Image Credit: CNN

Purdue Pharma announced it was filing for bankruptcy on Sunday, September 15, 2019.

They have been in the news for so long.

What does this mean?

Hopefully this post will show you the history of this company, their impact on the opioid crisis, and what may happen next.


Purdue Pharma History

It was founded in 1892 by medical doctors John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham.

In 1952, two other doctors, Raymond and Mortimer Sackler, bought the company. Older brother Arthur Sackler had a one-third stake in the company, which was sold to his brothers after his death. At that time, the company sold staples such as earwax remover and laxatives.

Purdue Pharma L.P. was incorporated in 1991, focused on pain management medication.

Manufacturing is located at three sites: Wilson, North Carolina; Totowa, New Jersey; and Coventry, Rhode Island.

Sister companies, also controlled by descendants of the Sackler brothers are Napp Pharmaceuticals in the U.K. and Mundipharma. These companies sell opioids globally.

In addition to OxyContin, Purdue makes pain medicines such as hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone. Contin, a controlled drug-release system was developed in 1972. Its extended-release formulation of morphine, MS Contin, began in 1984.

OxyContin is Purdue’s extended-release formulation of oxycodone. It was released in 1996.

Arthur Sackler pioneered an aggressive marketing strategy decades earlier. Purdue pressed and convinced doctors to prescribe OxyContin, with incentives such as free trips to pain management seminars and paid speaking engagements. The drug was marketed as “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night” when taken on a 12-hour schedule. In addition, it was touted to have “lower abuse potential than immediate-release oxycodone because of its time-release properties, even though there was no scientific evidence backing that conclusion.”

In 2000, just four years after OxyContin was released, widespread reports of abuse of the drug came to light.

At the same time, OxyContin was a “blockbuster drug” for Purdue. Between 1995 and 2001, OxyContin netted $2.8 billion for Purdue.


The Opioid Crisis

The numbers are staggering. According to an AP article published in January 2019, the opioid crisis killed 72,000 Americans in 2017.

An article from Quartz, published in mid-August 2019, was the summary of a meeting between an ER doctor and a former Purdue Pharma sales representative, and others.

“The company has not only faced public pushback for its role in the opioid crisis, but in 2007 Purdue was found guilty of downplaying the risks and overstating the effectiveness of opioids. The company also used legal marketing practices to boost sales, despite knowing the risks of addiction and dependence. These tactics are now at the center of a host of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors; those suits are currently making their way through the courts in Ohio.”

Some of the statements that Carol, the former sales rep, and Dr. Chris Johnson, made, were staggering.

“I remember hearing rumors early on that the bonuses for the Purdue sales reps were just incredible. Some of them were making $50 or $60,000 a quarter in incentive bonuses.”—Carol Panara, former Purdue sales rep

“Here’s the problem with a capitalist society: They have an incentive in you consuming more health care. You being healthy on your own isn’t good for business.”—Dr. Chris Johnson

Johnson: “With the passage the Affordable Care Act, something came into existence called the Open Payments Act. You can look up and see what doctors have taken gifts from pharmaceutical companies. And it turns out if you want to see where the most opioids deaths are, follow pharmaceutical gifts to doctors. Open Payments shows that half the doctors in this country take gifts from pharmaceutical companies. They’ve all taken the oath. Doctors are terrible at assessing how their influenced.  In my view, rather than relying on raising a hand and taking an oath, disrupt the incentives. Disrupt that reciprocity mechanism to get independent, and I would hope, more scientific thinking.”

In my area of southeastern Virginia, a recent discussion with the Opioid Working Group found that an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people have withdrawn from the Hampton Roads workforce due to opioids.

In short, Purdue knew years ago its drug was dangerous and addictive, but they aggressively marketed it anyway.


What’s Next?

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The intent for this filing was to stop the onslaught of lawsuits that the company has been facing. These lawsuit range from state to local governments, among others.

However, some state attorneys general have made it clear they will be pursuing additional damages from both the company and the Sackler family.

It has been reported that the company assets are not sufficient for the states. As early as last week, the New York attorney general’s office announced it had uncovered $1 billion dollars in wire transfers by the Sackler family.


To me, they’re running scared. This bankruptcy filing is their last resort, desperate to settle out of court.

In March 2019, Purdue and the Sackler family agreed to settle a case with the state of Oklahoma for $270 million dollars.

Twelve years ago, in 2007, a landmark settlement of $634.5 million dollars was reached, based on federal allegations the company had misbranded OxyContin. The company, along with three executives, plead guilty to criminal charges.

Image result for purdue pharma quotes

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I look forward to future media coverage. It’s high time that a company like this is finally held accountable for its actions.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #71: “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” *Re-Read*

Nickel and Dimed

Image Credit: Goodreads

When I initially read this book, it was assigned reading for one of my very first college classes. I can’t remember which one, but this book left a profound impact on me. Slowly, I started reading more from Barbara Ehrenreich. However, this is the book that started it all.

I started college in the fall of 2007, about a year before the financial crisis that began in 2008. I believe I was assigned to read this book at a poignant time. I also believe I’m re-reading this book at another poignant time, at the beginning of 2019.

Going into re-reading this, I realized my copy of the book was updated with a new afterword, published in 2008. However, the overall concept – Studying low-wage jobs and attempting to understand their socioeconomic impacts – is nothing new. That’s part of the reason I was drawn to Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Ehrenreich embarked on an experiment in 1998 – Trying to see if she, as a single, middle-aged woman, could survive as a waitress, a cleaner (hotel maid and house cleaner), a nursing home aide, and a seller / retail associate for a month, in three different cities. Each chapter explores a different type of job and a different city. She quickly realized the challenges with each one, and each city presented its own obstacles with housing, food, and assistance. Along the way, she met a variety of people working these jobs. A few were fortunate, but many were barely making ends meet. Several were working 2-3 jobs full-time, and still struggling with their incomes and their partner’s / spouse’s income(s) as well.

I won’t spoil anything, but she learns many lessons along the way. She discovers multiple issues with affordable housing, child care costs, fast food, health care, education, and the way these companies treat their employees.

I got a bit lost with the footnotes, statistics, and percentages, and glossed over a few of them toward the end. However, reading the updated afterword was important, and appreciated. This country has a lot to learn, still, in 2019. We need to treat employees, especially those earning the absolute minimum, better.

Overall, I’m glad I took the time to re-read this book. It’s a bit “dated” now, since Ehrenreich’s experiment started and concluded 21 years ago. However, it’s still relevant in many aspects today. And, like her, I’m grateful for everything I’ve had and worked for. This is a valuable book that will stay on my bookshelf forever.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #84: “As GM’s Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction”

Lordstown GM Plant

Image Credit: CNN

I saw this fascinating CNN article on Wednesday, March 6th:


The Lordstown, Ohio plant has been closed for nearly a week now. It made its last Chevy Cruze sedan on March 6th. Another sign of the times. General Motors (GM) has shrunk from more than 618,000 workers to just north of 100,000 people.

Auto manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining for a while now. The closure of Lordstown is part of GM’s shift in strategy – Away from sedans, more focus on higher-margin trucks and light SUVs, as well as researching and developing electric and autonomous vehicles. GM has also invested in a ridesharing platform called Maven.

In addition to a declining workforce, U.S. auto workers have experienced a drop in wages (Roughly 18 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation), and less retirement benefits. Just two years ago, only eight percent of factories offered pensions.


Lordstown sits in the Youngstown, Ohio region, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The average worker in Youngstown made $38,000 per year in 2017. Compare that to $61,000 to $88,000 per year for full-time GM production workers, according to their United Auto Workers union contract. And that doesn’t include overtime pay and bonuses.

The Lordstown plant started to see changes about two years ago. As the demand for the Cruze sedan declined, the second and third shifts were cut, and 3,000 people were laid off. Of the remaining 1,400 people, about 400 accepted transfers to other plants, and they are able to hold on to their healthcare and pensions. There were 350 workers eligible for retirement. Those transferred workers will receive $30,000 in relocation assistance.

One of the workers interviewed for the article, at GM since 1995, thought she had enough seniority to transfer to another facility, such as the metal fabrication plant in Cleveland or the transmission factory in Toledo. However, relocating is not ideal, either. She’s stuck, quoted as saying GM has her in a “chokehold.”

“I make $32 an hour. I’m not going to go get a $12-an-hour job. I couldn’t survive on that at all. I’m going to get up and go, ride it out, try to get the best gig I can get, and be done with them.” She’s hoping to net her 30 years at GM – which won’t happen until 2025.


The Youngstown region has watched manufacturing slide downhill since the 1970s. The auto industry started to crack less than a decade later, with stiffer competition from Japanese automakers. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dealt another blow, as work was outsourced to lower-paying suppliers. In 2007, as the automakers were having systemic issues related to the financial crisis and impending Great Recession, a lower-wage tier was created for entry-level workers, where they made 45 percent less per hour and got a 401(k) rather than a guaranteed pension. GM’s bankruptcy two years later tightened things even further.

For Lordstown, the community has thrived on GM. At one point, GM helped bring more than $2 million in tax revenue, among other benefits to schools and community ventures. Twenty years ago, Lordstown was competing with other cities to win another car model to replace the Chevy Cavalier. The community banded together, and along with plant officials, were successful in winning that car model. The community tried it again in 2018 – Posting signs, writing letters, and working with politicians. Unfortunately, one of the big factors was plant management wasn’t interested in participating this time.

Many are uncertain and fearful. They’ve watched GM shutter, and then re-open, their plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. What if that happens in Lordstown?

Another problem is many GM workers were hired without secondary education. Nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 purported job openings in Youngstown, including information technology and healthcare, will require a post-secondary credential by 2021.

One bright spot is trade adjustment assistance, available to GM workers through the state and U.S. Department of Commerce. Truck driving certificates have been popular recently, due to the quick turnaround to earning them, and relatively good pay.


As Lordstown begins to adjust to life without GM, the local high school has started a training program for the logistics industry, helping prepare students for jobs in the various distribution centers in the area. Roughly 15 percent of students have parents worked in the plant. And they’ve already begun to experience losses, as families leave to accept those transfers at other GM plants.

TJ Maxx is building a facility that will employ 1,000 people locally. However, the wage difference is drastic. Where many at GM made $30 per hour or more, entry-level listings for other TJ Maxx facilities sit between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

However, Lordstown doesn’t want the shuttered plant to be turned over to Amazon, Tesla, or any other company. Not yet, anyway.


This story isn’t just about one GM plant in one Ohio town. It’s about history, the manufacturing industry, the changes in the American workforce, and what can be done for those who need jobs now.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #68: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”

evicted

Image Credit: Amazon

I think I first heard about this book from friends on Facebook, who all said what a powerful book it was.

Then, author Matthew Desmond was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in April 2018. My local area, Hampton Roads in Virginia, was specifically mentioned in the interview regarding high numbers of evictions in three separate cities. It stung, and propelled me to want to learn more. As soon as possible.


I bought the book in August, and finally started it in late December. But once I started, I could not put it down. By the time we came home from the farm on December 26th, I’d flown through Part One. I was itching to go to bed that night, eager to dive in to Part Two. It only took me a few more nights of intense reading to finish it. I came away from it with a greater understanding, and appreciation, for being able to own my own home with my husband. It’s one of those books that makes me realize how good I have it, especially as a white woman with no children.

I’m drawn to books like this because of the human interest. I was reminded of the term “ethnography,” which is the systematic study of people and cultures. Author Matthew Desmond settled in Milwaukee, in the trailer park and other low-income neighborhoods, to not only interview people for the book, but to learn about their lives, and specifically what they go through day by day. The housing crisis and recession of the late-2000s began while he was conducting interviews, and it’s referenced in the book as well.

However, the housing crisis and recession are not all to blame here. It’s just one factor. There are many other factors involved with eviction and those who struggle with it. Landlords have profited by buying cheap, often dilapidated houses or buildings, charging rent, and then sometimes refusing to fix inherent problems in these properties. The tenants complain, nothing gets fixed, and rent can go unpaid or withheld. There are certain processes for evictions, but they vary greatly. There are voluntary and involuntary procedures. It’s definitely not black-and-white.

When someone is evicted, that goes on their record. It’s exponentially harder for parents with children to find an affordable place to live, and eviction(s) exacerbate that problem. Multiple evictions are even more problematic. It’s a vicious cycle, where parents want to protect their kids from negative influences and crime, but can’t break out of those areas because of their eviction record. Welfare benefits can also be affected. If you’re lucky to have a job, getting evicted can cause immense stress, affecting job performance and more. Choices have to be made, painfully – Pay rent, or the utilities, or the car repair, or a need for your kids. Kids are uprooted, shuffled, changing schools, and also stressed. It’s a horrible experience all around.

Desmond’s dedication to these interviews, living in their space, researching the processes and procedures, and soaking up everything he could about eviction shines through this book. It’s depressing, in more ways than one, but incredibly informative, educational, and eye-opening.

This is one of those books, in my opinion, should be studied and taught in schools, especially upper levels of high schools and colleges/universities. It’s an important issue that needs more focus, discussion, and change.

My eyes were opened widely to the multiple problems regarding eviction. I thought I knew a few things, but this book turned my thinking completely on its head. The book focused specifically on Milwaukee during a set number of years, but there are eviction problems and issues throughout the entire U.S.

That was one of the focuses of Desmond’s interview with Terry Gross – Thanks to receiving a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2015, Desmond has started The Eviction Lab, where a dedicated team of researchers and students from Princeton University are creating the first-ever eviction database in the U.S. At the time of the interview, in April 2018, the Lab had already collected 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The book was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017. That says something, too.

“Stabilizing a home has all sorts of positive benefits for a family,” Desmond said in the interview.

Desmond has written two other books, and co-authored one on race. I look forward to reading and seeing more from him.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #11: Big Pharma – A Look Into Martin Shkreli, The Gobs Of Money, And More

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.


Earlier this week, the Internet basically blew up because of this guy:

Image Credit: NBC News via Paul Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Image Credit: NBC News via Paul Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The media was all over it. Outrage was almost instantaneous. Martin Shkreli has been called almost every name in the book: “Public Enemy No. 1,” “the most hated man in America,” “a spoiled brat” by none other than Donald Trump, and more. The Daily Beast blatantly called him an asshole in their main headline, which was my exact impression of this shitty scumbag and fucking bottom feeder when the news first broke.

Shkreli’s decision to raise the price of Daraprim, used to treat an infection caused by a parasite, from a sensible $13.50 per pill to over $750 per dose, was jaw-dropping, among other things.

He soon back-pedaled, but the damage was already done:


It’s bad enough when your one decision sparks worldwide outrage, but I think it’s worse when your supposed colleagues in your own industry and supporting industries turn their backs on you. However, this piece of shitty scum totally deserves it. I’m applauding those in the bio tech industry and PhRMA for standing up and saying, “Whoa, hang on a second, this is not acceptable.” Read more from The Washington Post.

With that said, however, my applause is limited and short-lived. These industries are fucking money hoarders!

In The Daily Beast article, a reporter confronted Shkreli about the low cost of producing Daraprim – Roughly one dollar per pill.

Shkreli’s response to her?

” … Shkreli claimed that the price hike was necessary for Turing Pharmaceuticals to increase revenue, and that some of the profits would be funneled into research and development costs for a Daraprim alternative …”

That?

That’s PURE FUCKING GREED.


However, as The Washington Post article said, Shkreli is certainly not the first drug company executive, or drug company, to drastically raise prices.

Shkreli’s been in the news before – When he was the CEO of Retrophin, the company acquired Thiola, a drug used to treat an incurable kidney disease, with plans to raise its price over 20 times. The Retrophin board fired Shkreli and sued him for $65 million, accusing him of misusing company funds.

Here’s a few examples of those costs:

And, as I learned from researching for this post, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) apparently can’t do a damn thing about drug prices. They have no “legal authority to investigate or control the prices charged for marketed drugs,” according to a response on the FDA’s frequently asked questions section of their website.

Reading that statement basically knocked me over, initially.

According to an article from The Atlantic, Americans were reminded this week that the U.S. is the only fucking country in the FUCKING WORLD “where drug companies set their own prices for life-saving medications.”

Cue eye roll, heavy sigh, and head-shaking.


But, wait, hold on to your hats folks, there’s actually SOME GOOD NEWS!

Before this, and now even more so because of the spotlight on and scrutiny of Shkreli, people are actually paying attention, and giving a fuck!

All right, so maybe that first set of sentences were slightly sarcastic …

For me, I’ll believe all of this when I see it.

Meaning, I’ll believe it when Congress takes action.

Right now, the only thing that all of this proves to me is Big Pharma is king, and no one can reach his throne to take away his crown.

As someone who has typically chosen Democrat in the nine years that I have been able to vote, I’m genuinely intrigued at how Hillary and Bernie Sanders have responded to this debacle. However, I’m not entirely convinced. We are preparing for an election, after all.


There’s also the topic of generic drugs versus the brand names. I have personally struggled with this battle. I am fortunate to have a great work-sponsored health insurance plan and pharmacy coverage. However, my pharmacy coverage is extremely limited – It covers mainly generic drugs and prescriptions; almost nothing brand-name is listed in their database.

I struggle with this because the best birth control formula that I have found that works for me and my body does not have a generic form, at least not yet. At one point, I was paying nearly $100 per month for this particular formula. It finally got to the point where I couldn’t afford it, and I was forced to switch to a generic to save that money. Although switching to the generic reduced the cost from $100 to FREE because of my coverage, it was a sacrifice because it was a different formula, and my body reacted adversely, along with my emotional state every month. After struggling for a year or so, I asked my doctor for help. I’m so grateful for her – We have a plan in place for now and for the near future as I prepare for marriage and starting a family eventually, until the makers of the best formula release a generic version of their product, and hopefully that future generic version is covered under my insurance.

My predicament is most certainly small potatoes to those who deal with chronic and life-threatening conditions on a daily basis – Diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and more – and I definitely don’t want to minimize those struggles in any way. However, I wanted to share that small story of mine to help illustrate a point – I have dealt with Big Pharma and their drugs and their exorbitant costs, and almost everyone I know have dealt with it all, some much more often than others.

I could go on and on and on, but I think this is enough, for now.


I’ll leave you with John Oliver’s take on this – A double dose (no pun intended).


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #16: Building A Capsule Wardrobe

Image Credit: theproject333.com

Image Credit: theproject333.com

As some of you may know, I love my friend Megan’s blog, Freckled Italian.

She has a series called “What I Wore” that I love. Her style is amazing!

Back in July, she published an awesome post! Check it out: What I Wore 51: Restyling Old Clothes

In this post, Megan talked about the concept of a “capsule wardrobe.”


I’ve been curious about this for a while. So, I Googled it. So many links, and photos!

All of these links were super interesting, but they center around one concept:

Less is definitely more.


Right now, I struggle immensely with the sheer amount of clothes and shoes that I have. Like Megan has expressed in her posts and comments, I do like getting rid of things to reduce clutter, but I always find myself debating whether or not I will ever use that particular item ever again. It’s tough!

Thanks to Megan, I bought a book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I’m so glad I bought this book at this point in my life. I’m starting to read it now, and as I read, I will be applying it to getting ready to combine my life with Al’s, and then when we combine our lives when we marry, and then apply it again when we get our own house!

Watch for a book review on that one!


Anyway, back to this capsule wardrobe concept.

I like the idea of setting a number of items that you have. It forces you to look really hard at what you have, and make some hard decisions.

Thinking of my closet right now, it’s organized, but it feels like it’s busting at the seams, particularly with shoes!

On top of my closet, I have NINE dresser drawers that are full, containing everything from T-shirts to jeans to workout clothes, and everything in between.

On top of all that, I have a huge 66-quart storage bin in my parents’ storeroom that has most of my fall/winter clothes!

Whew! I’m exhausted already!


As I read through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I am going to evaluate every piece of clothing and every pair of shoes that I own. I am also going to do the same thing with jewelry.

I have a bunch of bags and boxes ready to donate to various local charities, with a particular focus on Blankets For The Homeless, and I hope this journey will only add to that. I want to help as many people as possible.

Everything else that doesn’t directly benefit the local homeless, that’s all going to Goodwill.


Look for a follow-up post soon!

I look forward to this journey – I feel lighter just thinking about it.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂